Today I bought one of these at the grocery store: a porcelain travel mug that looks like a carryout cup. I’m loving it, although I’m not sure precisely why. I mean, there are practical reasons: I don’t cotton to the taste (or the contaminants) of plastic travel mugs, and stainless steel gets too hot. But the white ceramic tumbler with its silicone sippy-lid has an uncanny appeal.
I asked my friend Rob Walker, who writes the terrific Consumed column for the New York Times Magazine, what we should call durable goods that go dressed in disposable drag. Rob has a whole tumblr devoted to things that look like other things, where he’s collected a few examples of what we agreed to call “disposable drag”: a melamine plate that looks like a paper plate; a porcelain milk jug that looks like a paper carton; and a laptop sleeve that looks like a manila envelope.
At his tumblr, Rob describes the dilemma: we’re attracted to the novel, and yet we also desire the familiar. Put them together, and you’ve got an uncanny object in your hands.